Few annual events in New York City are as anticipated as Harlem Week. A generation ago, it was quite accurate to refer to the festive occasion that began in 1974 as Harlem Day. It was a one-day tribute to Harlem’s glorious cultural history and ethnically diverse people. Soon, however, the celebrations spanned an entire week, and nowadays extend into September, with even more expansive plans rumored.
But rumor is one thing and reality is another. Under the theme “Discover: Our Harlem,” this year’s activities began in June with a “Replanting of the Tree of Hope” at the Adam Clayton Powell Jr. Mall at 131 Street. If, however, you had to choose one typical day from the weeks of activity, Sunday, July 29, seems to have that variety of entertainment to thrill even the most demanding visitor. Beginning at noon is Family Unity Day, and this day is always a highlight with its dance ensembles, musical groups, and excerpts from popular Broadway productions.
After the family is joyfully unified, a number of gospel choirs lift the spirit and bring you even closer together. Now that you’re practically walking on air, a fashion fusion is waiting to dazzle with colorful apparel for all seasons, but particularly for those seeking relief from the heat at the beach. At the end of this busy day is “A Concert Under the Stars,” and the music and legacy of James Brown and Ruth Brown is the theme. Rhythm and blues and soul have never been as funky or fevered than by this dauntless duo who recently joined their ancestors.
If you can’t make it to this long day of jamboree, set aside Aug. 18, when “Uptown Saturday Nite” rocks Harlem from river to river. For the more energetic among you, there’s “Dancing in the Streets,” and there will be a band that can play everything from salsa to samba to the electric slide.
There’s so much going on that it seems unfair to single out just a couple of days, but you don’t have to follow our suggestions. You can make your own decision on how you want to spend your time and energy, and you’ll need plenty of both.
Want to rest and relax without shaking your fanny? Then take a seat at Rucker’s and watch some of the region’s most gifted basketball players in action; or swivel your head back and forth as a few of the best amateurs and pros volley on the tennis court. There is a multitude of activities and games for children and the aroma of food will keep you salivating all the way to the next tent of hot pots.
Anyone who has participated in some facet of Harlem Week over the course of 33 years knows that participants will find at least one day, one event or one moment to cherish, to boast about to friends. And, given the thousands of individuals who attend the events each year, we know that there’s a whole lot of boasting going on.
For information on the full calendar of events, contact the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce at 212-862-7200, or visit www.harlemdiscover.com .
By Herb Boyd